Two Years and Counting!!

As my lovely colleague Marissa reminded me, today is the two year anniversary of the very first Do Nothing But Read Day. I spent a very snowy December 20, 2009, curled up in an easy chair, reading young adult fiction. This past summer’s DNBRD, I lounged outside on my porch, reading some Gary Shteyngart. We’re taking a little DNBRD break this holiday season, but don’t fear! I’m planning for a springtime DNBRD, which will be perfect for breaking in hammocks and picnic blankets everywhere.


How have you spent past DNBRDs? Are you having your own DNBRD anytime soon? Let us know! And sincerely, from the bottom of our book-loving, library-obsessed hearts, thank you for reading.


Not quite age appropriate…

I just read two GREAT BOOKS that aren’t quite right for their “target” audience. Don’t worry, nothing scandalous, but just a bit off the mark.

The first is called I Want My Hat Back by John Klassen. It’s a hilarious picture book about a bear who has lost his hat. There is a subtlety to it that may be lost on little ones. Also, at the very end, some particularly sensitive children might get sad, if they even pick up on what happens at all. That being said, I was laughing so hard at the end! If you appreciate a good picture book, see if your local library has it. There are other great reviews on the web, like this one from Wired‘s Geek Dad, or this one from the Calling Caldecott blog. Great story, but might not be right for the tiniest children.

The next is a young adult book called The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. The premise is this: It’s 1996, and the Internet is not in widespread use yet. Josh goes next door to his best friend Emma’s house with an America Online CD-ROM that came in the mail. Emma loads it onto her new desktop computer, and when she logs in, she finds herself and Josh on Facebook fifteen years in the future. I thought it was a clever concept, but no teen actually remembers getting those AOL CD-ROMs, or even what a CD-ROM is. I’m 28, and so I was 13 in 1996. I clearly remember using a dial-up modem, not being able to use the phone while online, not having a cell phone, and all those details that are essential to this book. They are pointed out clearly in the text, but I think it will go over the heads of most teens. Give this book to someone my age or a bit older and the connection to both the old and new technology is there. That being said, the story of being able to see into one’s future was cool, especially when Emma and Josh make slight changes to their current lives that make big waves down the line. Try this review from the LA Times for more.


Guidelines for gifting books

So November has flown by and we’re already past Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. As a book lover, I tend to give books to people as gifts for the holidays. However, I suggest the following guidelines for gifting:

1. Read the book. You wouldn’t suggest a restaurant to a loved one without eating there first, right? Same goes for books. If you can’t read the book (no time, it’s checked out of your library, etc.) try and find a good review. The New York Times is good, and they just came out with their 100 Notable Books of 2011. Other resources are Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist. For the kiddos, look at The Horn Book or School Library Journal. Or ask your librarian. Librarians love to suggest books.

2. Spy on your loved one. Does your mom have a stack of romance novels? Is your boyfriend a horror fan? Peek at the bookshelf of the person you are buying for, or ask someone else to peek if the person doesn’t live with you. For example, my dad fancies himself a mariner, so I got him The Devil’s Teeth, about sharks. He loved it! Epic gift win. You can also look up a title they’ve enjoyed on Amazon, which will then suggest other books that are similar. You can also see if your local library subscribes to NoveList, or use free services like GoodReads or LibraryThing.

3. Shell out for a nice copy… Go for the hardcover, people. It’s easier to wrap, first of all, and just seems more gift-y than a paperback. Inscribe the book with a note. Cut off the corner that has the price on the dust jacket. “But then I can’t return it if they don’t want it!” you exclaim. If you successfully completed steps 1 and 2, you shouldn’t worry. They will love it!

4. …but don’t go crazy. Unless the person you are buying for is absolutely totally 1000% into a topic, you don’t need to go overboard. If your favorite uncle is a Shakespearean scholar and you found a first folio with Billy Shakes’ autograph, and you have a zillion dollars to buy it, then by all means go for it. However, if you go to your local library, they usually have an ongoing book sale and you can get very very gently used hardcovers for five dollars or so. This is also a great resource for buying children’s books.

Be merry, and be bookish.



Recipes: Gingerbread

There is nothing that smells more like the holiday season than gingerbread. Throw in some pine, and you’ve got Instant Yuletide!

I’m bringing some gingerbread to Thanksgiving this year. While I was adding copious amounts of molasses to copious amounts of butter, I thought, “This would be awesome with a cup of tea and a book.” And here we are.

Holiday joy in physical form

Note: I couldn’t find a 9×9 pan at my local store, so I used two smaller pans (7 7/8 x 7 7/8) and increased this recipe by half. It worked out pretty well!

Click through for the recipe!

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So far, a thoughtful read

You guys know that I love Stephen King, so you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I started reading his newest novel, 11/22/63. Yes, it’s daunting at 848 pages, but so far, I adore it.

The pacing is lovely; I’m on page 168 and I still really have no idea what’s going to happen, but I can see a framework being built. The characterization is fantastic. The main character, Jake, is an English teacher from Maine (as are many of King’s characters over the years; write what you know). Jake is still getting over a divorce, but he doesn’t seem bitter or mean. He’s more refined than many of King’s characters, and I don’t see any skeletons in his closet (yet? At all?). That’s sort of nice. While Jake’s character is a big part of the plot, because he has to make a lot of difficult decisions, the plot itself is absolutely fascinating.

It’s that age-old question: what if you could go back in time and prevent something terrible from happening? In this case, it’s the assassination of JFK. Imagine all the implications of JFK finishing that tour of Dallas unscathed. There are probably things in your own life that would be different. Maybe you would have been born 15 years earlier, maybe you would have never been born at all. It’s the butterfly effect with a gigantic butterfly. It’s especially powerful because these are events that really happened; we’ve all seen the Zapruder film.

Since this novel takes place in Maine (at least partly), expect some major integration of familiar names, places, and even plot from King’s previous novels. I love that he does that. Everything feels richer and more real.

I’ll tell you my final impressions of the book when I finish it! Happy reading!

In praise of a good cafe

If you are like me, which you might be, you enjoy reading while drinking warm things and munching on baked goods. Coffee shops and cafes are my favorite places to read when the weather gets bleary and my lovely porch is no longer that cozy. My new place to read these days is the Coffee Gallerie in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s a half block from my apartment and their drinks are delicious. The chairs are pretty comfy, and there’s even a fireplace!

Today I’m reading Skeleton Crew by, who else, Stephen King. (It is Halloween, after all!) What’s on your Halloween reading agenda? Where do you like to read outside of the house?


It’s spooky time…

It’as getting quite autumn-y here in the Northeast. I stomped in a pile of crispy leaves the other day, there are pumpkins on the porch, and it’s beginning to look a lot like Halloween. I was never a horror fan, although I can deal with small doses of Stephen King thanks to Amanda. I just read two odd-and-good-but-not-scary YA books: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Peculiar Children centers around a guy named Jacob who grew up with bizarre tales and photographs from his grandfather. Once Jacob sees something unnatural and terrifying attack his grandfather in the woods, he knows he must go to Wales to find the orphanage where his grandfather grew up– Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The book is peppered with photographs of the peculiar children, borrowed from vintage photograph collectors to illustrate the story. I got the chills in several places and was afraid to turn the page lest I see something scary. There is a SMASH-BANG twist near the end, and the book ends with no finality, which I liked. Ransom Riggs, please do not write a sequel– let that uncertainty lie!

The Name of the Star is the latest from Maureen Johnson. The main character, Rory, is from Louisiana but is spending a year in London at boarding school. Unfortunately, she arrives just as a serial killer starts killing women in much the same way as Jack the Ripper did in the 1800s. One night, Rory sees a man that no one else can see, and suddenly, her life and view of the world change drastically. This book has a great climax and will be part of a series. I am so looking forward to find out what happens next. The library-centered comic Unshelved reviewed The Name of the Star recently, won’t you take a look?

Finally, since it’s almost Halloween, it’s also almost time for All Hallows’ Read, brainchild of the awesome Neil Gaiman. Why give candy when you can give books?